How to Care for and Maintain Your Garden Tools

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Creating and nurturing a beautiful garden takes lots of patience, perseverance and passion for gardening, to turn it into a worthy while. Amateur gardeners might find gardening, tiring and slow to results.

care and maintain your garden tools

But, that’s where our mighty gardening tools come to our rescue. Any experienced gardener knows the value of caring for such tools with proper maintenance, and the consequences of neglecting it…

Not much people have the resources to buy highly expensive tools, nor to replace existing ones every now and then. Are you one of them? Do you want your gardening tools to last up to their maximum potential? Then read on as I take you through the basic garden tools, their usage and proper cleaning practices.

Basic Gardening Must-Have Tools

The tools mentioned below are the most basics that any gardener will possess in one form or another. All of these are pretty inexpensive and can be found easily in your local gardening supplies store.

Note: the uses mentioned here are just the common ones, but actually they can be used for a variety of other purposes as required by the user’s choice.

    • Spade

used for cutting earth, planting and harvesting. A comfortable spade choice is one with a wooden handle with good grip that reaches your hip level at the least.

    • Secateurs / Pruning Shears

used to snip twigs, prune branches of trees, harvest fruits and vegetables with thick stalls and at times, tough weeds too. Never be stingy when purchasing this specific tool, because if you do, you’ll be paying the price afterwards anyway.

Spend some time, to try out and analyze different sizes and models, to pick the one that stays put and comfy in your hold. Dealing with a pruner that doesn’t feel easy on your hand, can sometimes be a wreck.

    • Trowel

used for transplanting small plants, weeding and preparing garden beds. Look for key features such as quality of stainless steel (premium grade stainless steel) and portability.

    • Garden Hoe

used for digging drills, mild trenches, shaping soil and the best weed battler! There are dozens of variations of hoes you can choose from but let’s not get into that now.

Instead, as a side tip: large garden hoes are awesome for preparing gardening beds but can be tougher to handle when it comes to smaller areas and plants. Small garden hoes on the other hand, are easy for soil cultivation in between small plants.

    • Sickle

used for reaping, cutting grain and lopping. The best for the ‘Chop N Drop’ technique!

    • Rakes

used to aerate soil, pile up leaves and debris, level the soil, make flower beds and remove thatch. Rakes are a common household tool for anyone who has a backyard, even if they’re not a gardener. Pick out the type of rake that you think you’ll use the most (as they’re quite multipurpose anyway).

Some rakes are extremely handy for specific tasks. However, the most common ones that come to our mind are garden rakes and leaf rakes.

  • Wheelbarrow / Garden Cart

used to move around soil, tools or any other garden material / debris. Just ensure that you buy one that doesn’t cause you back pains!


garden tools


Now, we can start with the maintenance process. Oh but wait, before that, these are the common stuff you need to keep in check before starting the cleaning session.

Cleaning Materials and Equipment

  • A proper hoseMineral Spirit
  • Household cleaning liquids (dishwashing liquid, detergent)
  • Putty Knife / Joint Knife
  • Vinegar
  • Steel Wool / Stiff Brush
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Flat File / Whetstone / Hand File
  • Old clothes / Rags / Towels
  • Buckets as needed
  • Boiled Linseed Oil
  • Vegetable Oil
In case you have any other alternatives for the stuff listed above, feel free to use them as per your wish!
There are 4 brief steps to thoroughly cleaning your garden tools.

1. Getting them clean

water and vinegar to clean rust– To start with, get rid of the mud, caked-on dirt and sap from the tools (the digging tools esp.) with the help of steel wool for smaller ones and putty knife for bigger ones.

– Use rubbing alcohol for removing sap from the pruners.

– Next, soak them in hot water with any household cleaner like dishwashing liquids (optional) for about 20 minutes.

– Scrub and rinse thoroughly again before drying them up with a towel.

Yeah I hear what you’re saying.  WHAT ABOUT THE DAMN RUST?
If you spot any rust on your metal tools, no worries as there’s a solution for that too. Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar. Let the rusty tools soak in it for 10-15 hours. Then, you’ll be able to scrub them off easily with steel wool. Your tools will look guaranteed good as new!

2. Disinfecting Gardening Tools

This is a mandatory step if your tools have been exposed to infected plants or funguses that have the possibility of spreading to other healthy plants. Thus, when handling a diseased plant, make sure to dip your tool in 1:10 chlorine bleach and water solution before using it on the next plant.

Regardless, bleach and water is by far the best affordable combo for both disinfection and sanitization of gardening tools.

As mentioned previously, make a 10% chlorine solution and soak your tools in it. Before storing, rinse and dry them till no dampness can be felt. This is more of a seasonal thing as you wouldn’t have to sanitize your gardening tools every day or so.

3. Keeping up with the blades

No gardener likes to work with dull or bland metal tools. Checking the sharpness and quality condition of the metal tools is necessary to keep far the frustration of getting damaged cuts.

You can use a flat file or sanding block as per your preference to sharpen the blades.

Follow the blade’s bevel along its angle which usually ranges from 30 – 45 degrees.

Make a few strokes along the edges and you’re done! Easy, isn’t it?

Safety Precaution: always wear thick gloves and eye protection to safeguard yourself from getting tiny metal particles into your eyes or sharp blades cutting through your skin.

4. Oiling / Rust Protection

Whew! Finally, when all the other steps are done and dry, simply add a few drops of boiled linseed oil to your metal blades and moving pivot joints. This provides them both lubrication and rust prevention.

For smaller tools like secateurs (pruners), rub the metal parts with boiled linseed oil or pruner’s oil with a cloth. After about 10 minutes, wipe off the excess oil using a dry rag.

Care for Wooden Tools

Let’s not forget about these important parts too! Wooden tools and handles are also super essential elements in gardening. Thus, never fail to give them the proper care they too deserve.

Check your wooden handles for any signs of splinters or slight breakages.

Use sandpaper to smooth out the surfaces to avoid future injuries. Lastly, apply linseed oil, let it absorb and wipe off the excess.

5. Protective Measures

Place your tools in a dry, sheltered place and hang large gardening tools upside down to prevent any possible damage to the blades.

Towards the end of each gardening day, make a habit to:

  • Wash off all mud and stiff dirt using a hose and scrubber, as the primary cause of rust is moisture in any form.
  • Use acetone or rubbing alcohol to remove sap and pitch from smaller tools
  • Wipe tools completely dry with a rag soon after rinsing with water
  • Hang the bigger tools upside down to prevent any damage or blandness to the edges
  • Always remember to apply a few drops of boiled linseed oil to your metals and moving parts for lubrication and to prevent rust formation.

There you go! I know that this might seem like an overwhelming amount of work to do, especially after a full day of gardening. But trust me…every extra minute you spend caring for your gardening tools will pay off every bit worthy in the long run.

Some More Quick Tips

Through such proper care, your tools will last for decades to come, with the quality on par with brand new ones. Here are a few tips for you to take a quick glance at:

Tip #1
You can smartly recycle your old hose to protect the sharp blades of your garden tools like spades and shovels from getting nicked over time.

Measure the appropriate length and width of the blades. Cut the hose accordingly to fit them. Fix the cut part on the blade so as to cover it from slashing anything.

This can be a real reliever if you’re as clumsy as me with sharp tools.

Tip #2
This has become a pretty popular tip but it never hurts to remind those who aren’t doing it already.

The Sand and Oil Bucket – fill a bucket with sand almost up to the brim and add a few drops of oil of your choice (linseed oil is preferred and petroleum based oil is a BIG NO as it will indirectly introduce petroleum into your soil).

Mix them and dig your small to medium sized tools 3/4 into it.

For super busy or part time gardeners, this trick is an all in one. It gets rid of mud and acts as a layer of protection from rust formation, while keeping all the commonly misplaced tools in one place.

* Don’t add too much oil. Be considerate of the soil and oil proportion.

Tip #3
Solution combos recap!
1 part chlorine and 10 parts water for disinfection and sanitization
1 part white vinegar and 1 part water for rust removal

Have a great day gardening away!